Bags of cash were found in the Brussels home of Greek MEP Eva Kaili who was placed in detention by Belgian authorities on Friday suspected to be involved in a bribe scandal related to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
At least 17 home raids were carried out across the city of Brussels, among them Kaili’s, who was detained overnight after bags filled with cash were discovered in her residence, Belgian daily L’Echo reports.
The report added that Kaili’s father was caught in the act of attempting to flee with a suitcase of cash.
Four other people were detained for questioning in the context of investigations pursued by the Belgian Anti-Corruption Bureau in relation to illegal financing within the European Parliament by Qatari officials, said Belgian media.
Kaili and the other four individuals are being held for 48 hours until a judge can decide on issuing arrest warrants, it was added, as charges have not yet been officially read to them, as they are still treated as being innocent, it was underlined.
Although the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office has not so far officially confirmed the names of those arrested, it emphasized that these are individuals with strategic positions, it was reported.
According to information obtained by Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA), the other four people arrested are Kaili’s partner, Francesco Giorgi, formerly an associate of former socialist MEP (2004-2019) Pier Antonio Pancheri – also arrested.
Another arrestee is the newly appointed general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Luca Vincentini, who, for 11 years, was the head of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). The fifth person is Nicolo Figa Talamanca, director of the NGO ‘No Peace Without Justice’.
It was also reported by Belgian media that the wife and daughter of the former Italian MEP Pier Antonio Pancheri were arrested on Friday in Bergamo, Italy. Pancheri was also the founder of one of the NGOs probed by Belgian police, ‘Fight Impunity’.
The amount of 600,000 euros in cash was found in Pancheri’s Brussels home, according to Belgian media.
It also became known that Belgian authorities searched and then sealed the homes and offices of associates of two Belgian MEPs after seizing computers and other electronic devices.
Recently, Qatar has come under increased scrutiny as the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. In 2011, there were concerns raised that Qatar had “bought” the World Cup by bribing FIFA officials.
Kaili’s support for Qatar
On November 21, 2022, Kaili joined other MEPs for a debate in the European Parliament concerning the “Situation of human rights in the context of the FIFA world cup in Qatar”.
During the debate, Kaili addressed her peers saying, “the World Cup in Qatar is proof, actually, of how sports diplomacy can achieve a historical transformation of a country with reforms that inspired the Arab world. I alone said that Qatar is a frontrunner in labor rights, abolishing kafala and reducing minimum wage.”
Kaili recently visited Qatar where she met with senior officials and ministers, including Ali bin Smaikh Al Marri, Minister of Labor. “During the meeting, they discussed ways to enhance and develop cooperation in the fields of labor laws,” the Qatari ministry said in a tweet.
التقى سعادة الدكتور علي بن صميخ المري، وزير العمل، مع سعادة السيدة إيفا كايلي، نائب رئيس البرلمان الأوروبي، حيث بحثا خلال اللقاء سبل تعزيز التعاون بمجالات العمل وتطويرها.#وزارة_العمل pic.twitter.com/mwxJIpJ8kW
— وزارة العمل (@MOLQTR) October 31, 2022
MEP Giorgos Kyrtsos told private Contra TV that European lawmakers were shocked by the speech of Kaili and her determination to whitewash Qatar.
“We knew that the Qataris and other Middle East nations have been lobbying the European Parliament. But, lobbyists do not demand such unquestionable public support. They usually ask for more subtle ways to promote their interests, such as during votes. Kaili’s speech was extraordinary.”
Kaili, a socialist member and vice president of the European Parliament, has been expelled from her Greek party, PASOK, and suspended from the Parliament’s Socialists and Democrats group.